News / 19 September 2016

The Riverkeeper: guardian of Bangladesh’ rivers

Sharif Jamil is the riverkeeper. In 2009 he started protecting the severely polluted Buriganga River, becoming Bangladesh' first riverkeeper. "We have to make people responsible for their own environment."

Sharif Jamil during his work as riverkeeper. Photo: Waterkeepers Bangladesh

Blue-black swamps
Driving along the dike that separates the Buriganga river from capital Dhaka, on the one hand we see a lot of (illegal) river encroachment, and on the other hand, smelly blue-black bubbling swamps where the tanneries and textile factories discharge their waste water. A little further, a drain from the city connects to the Buriganga: pitch-black, with urban waste polluted water is discharged into the river here. It indicates the water quality of the Buriganga and other waters around Dhaka.

Keeping an eye on the water quality
Riverkeeper Sharif Jamil keeps a close watch on the condition of the Buriganga River, and aims to improve it. He identifies the sources of pollution, take samples and contacts the local population which he informs about the situation. He especially focuses on schools along the river to make children aware of the river's ecology. He also advises the government by taking part in various committees that deal with water management.

Both ENDS has known Sharif since 2007, when he received a Joke Waller-Hunter Initiative-grant. The grant helped him develop the leadership skills that he needs as a riverkeeper.

Waterkeepers network
As riverkeeper, Sharif is part of the international Waterkeeper Alliance, which is globally committed to clean waterways where you can swim and fish. In 2013, he was still the only Bangladeshi waterkeeper, but was dreaming of a national waterkeepers network. And he succeeded: Sharif is now coordinator of the Waterkeepers Bangladesh network.

Waterkeepers are counterpower
People like Sharif and his colleagues, who work relentlessly and with passion for water conservation, are an important counterpower. Where no one else does, they show governments and businesses their responsibilities, provide solutions and help create support for them through their close links with local communities.


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